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MLB Houston Astros

Top 5 Free Agent Relievers Houston Astros Should Target

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Fixing The Astros' Bullpen

Thomas Campbell - USA TODAY Sports

It’s no secret and it never has been: the Houston Astros’ bullpen is terrible. After completely revamping the bullpen towards the end of the year by adding several young arms, they did see their bullpen ERA drop from 5.61 to 5.00, but it still wasn’t pretty.

Of all the guys they tried, Kevin Chapman proved to be the most successful, both as a left-handed specialist and just as a setup man in general. He finished the season with a 1.77 ERA in just over 20 innings pitched. That’s pretty solid.

Josh Zeid and Chia-Jen Lo were also contributors to the pen, but their consistency left a lot to be desired. Hopefully it will get sorted out in the near future.

That being said, the Astros’ have acknowledged the need to go out and grab some solid relievers to bolster the worst bullpen in MLB. With owner Jim Crane already committing to a payroll of $50-$60 million for the 2014 Astros, they have many options available to them.

Obviously, the objective here is to get established, consistent pitchers who have at been proficient at the major league level. It’s past the point of trying to grab a young guy and develop him. Their bullpen was the cause for far too many losses (40) this year, and they surrendered a staggering 85 home runs. It’s time to sign outside help, and it’s incredibly refreshing to know that Jim Crane and his crew are on board with that. It reminds the fans that they are here to win sooner rather than later.

The Astros should have some criteria in their search, however. Age is always going to be a factor as the Astros are looking for guys that will still be relevant in another two years or so. It’s important to target guys that aren’t too far over 30-years old. It’s also pretty crucial to get pitchers who have played on contending teams to give them an edge in pressure situations and to impart wisdom upon the young future of the pen.

All that being said, here are five guys that fit the bill for what the Astros need in the bullpen.

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5. Matt Capps

David Richard - USA TODAY Sports

The Astros have proven time and time again that they love to sign guys that were either incredibly dominant (ie. LaTroy Hawkins, Jose Valverde), or had incredible potential (ie. Brett Wallace, Rick Ankiel) at one point in time. Whether they work out or not has always been a crapshoot. Well, Matt Capps fits the bill, but comes with less risk. Capps' 2010 was incredibly dominant as a closer, but since then he’s had some down years. Overall, he boasts a 3.52 ERA in 439.2 innings of work. That’s still pretty solid, and the dominant demeanor of a guy like Capps could work wonders on a young bullpen.

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4. Ryan Madson

Gary A. Vasquez - USA TODAY Sports

Tommy John surgery usually has some pretty positive effects on pitchers, but the Los Angeles Angels were unwilling to find out with Ryan Madsen, as they cut him following his missing the entire 2013 season due to the surgery. Madson has had a solid career as a reliever, putting together a 3.59 ERA in his nine-year career. His strikeout to walk ratio has gradually gotten better and better over the years, as it has hovered near 4.00 in his last three active years. Given that he missed the past two years, he would definitely come for cheap as well.

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3. Matt Albers

David Richard - USA TODAY Sports

A long long time ago, Matt Albers was drafted by the Houston Astros and traded with a handful of other prospects to acquire Miguel Tejada. Albers now finds himself a Houston native without a home in a world where his hometown team could sorely use help at his position. Albers' career started shaky, but he’s really come on in the past two years, during which he never had an ERA over 3.14.

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2. Boone Logan

Steven Bisig - USA TODAY Sports

Boone Logan didn’t finish strong for the New York Yankees, putting up a 6.00-plus ERA in his final 10 appearances. But the whole is greater than the parts, and overall, he put together a solid season with a 3.23 ERA in 39 innings. In that span, he struck out 50 and only walked 13. Given that he is also a lefty and from Texas, he may be high on the Astros’ wishlist.

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1. Edward Mujica

Jeff Curry - USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of non-secrets, Edward Mujica finished the 2013 campaign horribly for the St. Louis Cardinals, giving up nine runs in his final 7.1 innings. But even with that horrid stretch, he put together a very solid season. In 64.2 innings, he put together a 2.78 ERA with a 1.01 WHIP and walked only five. If he can do half of that for the Astros, he’ll be the closer within the first week. Mujica has the stuff; it just may be a case of him needing a change of scenery.

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